News from the
Pennsylvania Curriculum Exchange
Our second place entry for the 11-14 age group:
Amanda Zook of Newmanstown, age 14 (novel excerpt)
From One World to Another
She was your average sixteen-year-old girl in appearance with fantasies that clogged out the boring reality of life. She breathed literature like air and ate up knowledge like food. The girl loved learning but did it mostly to ignore problems that life always brought. She lived with her grandmother, and while most children would jump at the opportunity to live with their grandparents, she despised it. Maybe if she was forced to live with her grandmother under more likeable circumstances, life might be a bit more enjoyable. But that was not the case. Her family had died when she was a little girl leaving her with grandmother. For one, her grandmother wasn’t the most congenial person. She was a little too neat and a little too persnickety. Her taste in fashion was over the top, and her ears were too sensitive when it came to noise. However, first and foremost, grandmother hated children. If you were under the age of twenty, grandmother did not like you. The girl resided in the attic farthest from grandmother. She studied, read, ate, slept and lived her life in the top most peaks of the house.
The house was more of a mansion. It possessed a lovely cobblestone courtyard that was surrounded by a square hedge. Large windows were set across the front of the mansion. A hired man, named Calvin Dodgers, took up the duty of cleaning them every Thursday. The girl took pleasure in helping him wash the windows. It often got boring in the old mansion and Calvin was the perfect person to brighten the drab days.
It so happened to be a Thursday afternoon. School and homework had been completed, which left the rest of her day free. With her freckled nose stuck between the pages of a book and her head far into the clouds, the girl ignored everything around her. She ignored everything except for the fact that Calvin would be at the mansion in five minutes to wash the windows. She smiled, imagining what grandmother would say if she found out that the girl was helping with Calvin’s work.
“Now Brie, I pay this man good money to wash windows. I don’t want him getting any help from you. No sir, you should be studying, young lady, like normal children your age.”
Brie’s eyes buzzed over the pages of the book. It was quite homey in the attic. Stuffed bookshelves lined the walls. The old woman hated books unlike grandfather who had cherished and collected them. However, when he disappeared, grandmother sent all the books into the attic so she wouldn’t have to see them collect dust. The books never did collect dust though, for Brie constantly read them.
She closed her book. Calvin should be here any moment. The man was in his late forty’s. He had merry red cheeks and a charming Irish accent. His rusty brown hair was already speckled with white. However, he always covered his aging hair with a dapper bowling hat. The hat didn’t match the rest of his outfit that often consisted of a red plaid shirt and stained overalls.
She ran quietly down stairs. Like she presumed, grandmother was doing some Thursday afternoon shopping. She jogged out the door, forgetting to put on her shoes. She was oblivious to little details like that.
Sure enough, Calvin was outside, beginning to wash the first window.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Dodgers,” She called. The girl always greeted the window washer like that.
“And a good afternoon to you as well, Ms. Brie,” replied Calvin, who was smiling broadly.
The girl walked over to Calvin a picked up a rag. Only then did she notice that another person was accompanying him.
“This is my son, Sam Dodgers. I’m training the lad to be the next best window washer in town.” Calvin smiled down at his son, who laughed and rolled his eyes.
“I’m Brie,” she said, introducing herself to Sam. Sam, like his father, had a big smile. Other than that, they shared no resemblance. Sam’s hair was dirty blond and his eyes were foggy blue.
“Nice to meet you,” the boy replied, smiling. He turned back to the window and began to clean it.
“Brie, what school do you attend?” Calvin asked, wiping the water from the window with his squeegee. It made a squeaky sound, signifying that that part of the window was clean.
“Jenkinsville Public,” she replied. She wished Calvin hadn’t brought up school.
“Sam goes to the same school. Isn’t that right Sam?” Calvin furrowed his eyebrows as if trying to remember.
“I do,” the boy replied, only half listening to the conversation.
“Do you enjoy school my dear?” Calvin asked Brie.
Brie nodded. “Yes. Most of the time.” In truth, Brie actually hated her school. Maybe it would be more enjoyable if she had friends. However, nobody seemed interested in being her friend; it was like she wasn’t there at all. Maybe it was her love for books. Reading was extremely unpopular at Jenkinsville Public.
“Are you going to the lake on Saturday for the school picnic?” Sam asked.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” Brie sighed.
“Yeah, I’m just going for the food,” Sam laughed, wiping the window dry.
“Well dearie, I think you should go,” Calvin stated, “Let’s see…if the picnic is on-what day is it on again?”
“Saturday,” Sam repeated. Mr. Dodgers was quite forgetful.
“Oh, yes. The picnic is on Saturday. That means I will be doing Mrs. O’Dell’s windows. On the way home I will be passing your place. I could pick you up and take you to the reunion. It works perfect. I don’t think your grandmother would mind.”
Brie thought a moment. Mr. Dodgers was wrong. Her grandmother would most likely not allow it. However, Brie could always sneak out.
“What kind of food are they serving?” she asked abruptly.
She sighed, “Fine. I’ll go.” When it came to hamburgers she couldn’t miss out. Hamburgers were one delicacy she never was able to eat, because grandmother hated them with a passion.
* * * * * * *
Aven sputtered, wincing at the overpowering pain he surely felt. Nadia stood over his grey face, concern etched between her brows. She would have cried if nobody else was in the room.
“Can I do anything?” she asked, even though they all knew that there was no hope for the Archer.
“You know you can do nothing for me. I am dying.” Nadia winced at his bluntness. “Yes, my power is drained, but my faith in you is high. I know you will succeed. I trust you know what to do?”
Nadia pressed her lips together in a line. “Yes. But the girl doesn’t have the right blood to enter the portal. How will the girl survive once we bring her here?”
Aven shook his head. “No, you won’t bring her here, she will come here herself. We have a way. Another type of portal if you will.” He coughed again and his eyes screwed shut. He looked like a withered flower. Petal by petal he was decreasing in life. No medicine, magic, or miracle for that matter could bring him back. It was happening like it had been predicted.
Nadia squeezed the old man’s hand as if to reassure him, although it was she who needed the reassuring.
“I may be done, but you are not, and neither is the Fairytale.”
Nadia swallowed, the lump in her throat was choking her.
“The girl, you will know who she is.” Aven gulped down air like water and turned his hazy eyes back to Nadia.
“Remember, don’t rely solely on magic or yourself. If you do, it will be your downfall.” Nadia’s eyes stung from holding back the tears.
Aven gasped, and with his last seconds of life, proclaimed, “For the Fairytale!”
And just like that, his heart ran still and his breath ceased. Nadia stared a moment into the hazy blue eyes of her father, before closing them forever. She let it sink in: the Archer, the warrior, her father, was now dead. She turned away, her face hardened to prevent any emotions from leaking through.
“Finch, we will leave for the portal at once.”
Finch, a tall boy with raven black hair and a mischievous smile, stood by the entrance of the tent. She was surprised to see that his face had gone solemn which seldom ever occurred. He would be a good companion when he wasn’t playing a trick or making a joke.
“So soon?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. This was a reoccurring habit of his.
“We can’t afford to loose anymore time,” Nadia replied hoarsely, hoisting her quiver of arrows over her shoulder. Finch nodded and ducked out of the tent.
Preparing for a journey wouldn’t normally be difficult. But with her head swarming with so many thoughts, it was hard to focus on her given task. The Archer was the leader of a small hunting town in Fairytale. He was the second leader to die that month. She crinkled her eyebrows, containing the emotion she felt inside her. She wanted to scream, or punch something, or find out what was happening. Something was off. Everyone knew it. Nadia lived in a hunting town. She knew nature like the back of her hand. All the brilliance that the forest had once possessed was being sucked from it. The game that she hunted in the forest was growing scarce, and what few animals she caught were weekly. The sky, once a vivid cerulean, was now bleak and lifeless. The land was dying. The leaders of each town were dying. What next?
The journey would only last up to two days. They would deliver their message to the girl and be off to their own world in no time. Nadia laced up her leather, knee-high boots and drew her black hood over her uneven, ash blond hair. She packed a satchel with all the essentials for traveling- food, medicine, a tent, daggers and so on. She hesitated a moment in the tent. The body of her father had been removed from the room, but its haunting presence lingered there still. She shook her head, now was not the time for mourning.
She found Finch waiting outside the tent. His black hood was draped over his unruly head of curls. He too carried arrows and a sword. Though his normally bright eyes were dimmed with the events of the morning, he still wore a smirk.
It didn’t take long to reach the portal on foot; it was just outside the boundaries of town. In truth, this was the first time Nadia had used the portal, but the trainers had told her exactly how it worked. Only Archers could go through the portal. Only they could send the message to the Earth. The thought of the Earth was unfathomable to Nadia. This planet had created them, yet she herself had never seen it. Now, she was about to jump into a portal and head to this mythical land that had only been a fantasy when she was younger.
Nadia squeezed her eyes shut and glanced at Finch.
He grinned. “If you’re not going to open the portal, then I would be happy to do it myself.” She could tell he was excited. His dim eyes were bright again.
The portal was a wooden door standing upright on the ground. There was barren land beyond the closed door. It seemed that if the portal were opened, she’d only see the same sterile landscape. However, if she unbolted this door and stepped through the threshold, it would whisk her away to the Earth.
Nadia shook her head and placed her hand on the bronze doorknob. Before she could second guess herself or overthink the matter, she turned the knob and opened the portal. She felt the pressure of Finch’s hand clasped in hers. Turning her head, she gasped in awe. The sight before them was indescribable. It was not a galaxy of stars and planets, as one might expect. It was several worlds combined into one. A desert wasteland with endless sand dunes meshed into the tumbling, aquamarine ocean. From the depths of the sea sprouted shimmery, silver towers that brushed the chalky white clouds. It almost looked like smoke, although from where they were standing she couldn’t be sure. The towers collided into a tangled jungle. Vines interlaced the close-knit trees together, merging their leafy canopies into one. The jungle clashed into jagged caverns and snow capped mountains that were tainted purple with mist. The landscape went on forever, changing from one thing to another. They were standing on nothing at all but air itself.
However, they only had a few seconds to view the scene before the portal was put into action. They were moving so fast that she couldn’t see anything around her. She darted a look at Finch. He was laughing for pure joy. It was exhilarating to fly through the air at such a tremendous speed, the wind whipping at her face and hair. Unfortunately, just like the landscapes had ended quickly, so did the glorious ride. Their feet touched the Earth.